Vernardus Cooper Plays with an Aggressive Edge

[Premium Article] It's a good thing Greenwood High School senior Vernardus Cooper has always handled pressure well.<P> Even as a sophomore, Cooper was the featured running back in the Bulldogs' Wing-T attack. He answered the call with more than 1,000 yards rushing. Cooper followed that up with another 1,000-yard season.

GHS head coach Charles Brady is excited about Cooper's senior season. He says he will find new ways to get the ball in Cooper's hands this year.

"We will move him around some, putting him at wide receiver and wing back. If push comes to shove, we will line him up at quarterback, because he can play quarterback," Brady explained. "Cooper is a scoring threat anytime he has the ball. He doesn't have blazing speed, but if he gets in your secondary, because he knows how to cut, you've got major problems."

Brady knows defenses will be keying on Cooper, and he expects him to excel under that kind of pressure.

"He's had to step up as a playmaker ever since he was a sophomore. That's a lot of pressure for a 15-year-old kid," Brady said. "He understands what it's like to play with great pressure.

"He plays with an aggressive edge. Under pressure, some might think too much. Cooper doesn't think about it; he just does it."

Cooper isn't letting all this attention go to his head, though.

"I look forward to the challenge, but one man can't do it all in a team sport like football," said the 5-foot-11, 187-pounder, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. "I've worked hard this summer on the weights and running to avoid fatigue later in the season."

Cooper needs to be in good shape, because he hardly ever comes off the field. He also starts in the defensive secondary, punts and returns kicks.

Cooper actually prefers playing defense to scoring touchdowns, and that's good news because defensive back is probably where his football future lies.

"He can be a good college player, especially on defense as a free safety or cornerback. He's a big-play guy in the secondary. He has great instincts for the ball," Brady said.

Ole Miss and Alabama, according to Brady, are showing a lot of interest in Cooper, who is also getting letters from LSU, Marshall, West Virginia and Grambling State.

Bill Burrus is the Sports Editor for the Greenwood (MS) Commonwealth newspaper. He will be writing occasional Mississippi Delta related stories for Gene's Page. You can contact him by email at

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